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Shadows by Joe Dornich | Word Riot
Flash Fiction

June 15, 2011      

Shadows by Joe Dornich

Listen to a reading of “Shadows” by Joe Dornich.

On her arm is a tattoo of the Eiffel Tower in the middle of the desert. From his place at the counter he watches her work the grill. Cracking eggs and flipping bacon. Plating food. It’s tight back there and she barely has enough room to turn around; she’s a big woman. She reminds him of all the great beasts locked away in zoos.

A waitress sticks an order slip on a metal wheel. This happens every couple of minutes, her rushing back and forth to the same spot. She is skinny and quick. It is like watching a hummingbird. When she finally has a free moment he tries to make conversation. “Can you believe how hot it is already?”

“I know,” she says. “They just got something like eight inches back home.”

“That’s why we live here I guess.”

“Yeah,” she says. What she does not say is that the doctor thought a dryer climate would be good for her mother’s emphysema. That it might prolong her life. And it did, by almost three years. There are no more reasons to stay, but there is nothing back home but an ex-boyfriend who owes her five hundred dollars. This makes the waitress laugh. That she still thinks of him and his debt to her as something tangible, as something she will ever see again. He asks what is so funny, but she does not say.

A man comes in with a little girl. They take the seats next to him. The girl’s chin just clears the counter and she holds her menu with both hands.

“What would you like to eat?” the father says. “Pancakes,” she answers through a smile.

The girl has caught the cook’s attention. “Pancakes it is then,” she says. “She’s very pretty, how old are you?”

“She’s almost five,” the father says. The cook smiles just enough to deepen the creases around her eyes. “That’s a good age,” she says. What she does not say is that she too has a daughter. A little girl that used to be five, that used to watch her mother cook pancakes in their little house in Paris, Texas. That girl is twelve now. She loves to read. She sleeps with a light on. She lives with her grandmother. The cook pours batter on the grill and says none of this.

Things slow down. More people trickle out than in. Soon it is only the cook and the waitress and the man. They ask if he will watch the place while they take a smoke break.

“Sure,” he says. What he does not say is that as soon as they asked he thought about stealing the money from the register. That he is not ashamed of the dark places his mind goes when presented with an opportunity. That it has saved him more times than not.

When they are gone he imagines them smoking in silence. He pictures each woman staring at her respective direction and the sun high in the sky when the shadows are at their most faint. When what is visible is a mere fraction of what is really there.

Joe Dornich

About the author:

Joe Dornich lives and sometimes works in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Forth Magazine, The Midwest Literary Magazine, and Nerve.com. It addition to writing Joe is taking a mail-order coarse in veterinary medicine. His mailbox is often filled with sick kittens. He lives alone.

    1 comment to Shadows by Joe Dornich

    • dennis marcello

      Nice to hear your voice, the story was short, but a good start. will you be adding to it? Does he rob the joint, kill the cook and waitress? and why Paris texas?

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